Happy new year!

Welcome to 2024!  We have a lot of work to do this year and I’m eager to start!

Beginning a new year can often feel like a fresh start. It can be a time of reflection and recalibration – both in our work lives and our personal lives.  I set my goals and major plans for the year.  And judging by the packed parking lots at local gyms (at least for a few weeks), I am not alone! (I also always read humorist Dave Barry’s review of the previous year.  If you do too, here’s to Dottie in 2024!)

For example, I enjoy the new energy that I see and experience each time I participate in New Employee Orientation. Our newest colleagues are happy to be with us and filled with great ideas for better ways to serve our residents.  When I share with them our value of “innovation,” I explain that they have the “freshest eyes” to our processes and the most recent experience in other organizations.  So, they may have the ability to see opportunities to improve our service that those of us who have been working in our systems for years may not.

I especially look to our leaders to continually reinvent and improve the work of their teams. Whether it’s new tools or revised work processes, taking a fresh look is expected of those who lead teams.

One such refresh is currently underway in the Clerk’s Office. But, first, a bit of background about this lesser-known group. The Clerk of the Superior Court – Constance White – and her team primarily work to support the administration of the courts and are the main interface for court-involved people. You may think this is about those involved in criminal matters, which is true, but there are far more civil cases.  And many of the civil cases – think a divorce with minor children – have an ongoing and multi-year connection to our courts. 

Furthermore, most of the time when someone is interacting with the courts, it is not for a positive reason (Adoptions are one of the exceptions!). Something didn’t go the way they had originally hoped, and they need our legal system to help work it out. These situations can frequently be highly emotional and confusing to our customers. 

Our Clerk’s team deals with over 700,000 documents each year – there are links to 23 different forms on the Clerk’s web site under just the Miscellaneous Forms – Domestic tab alone!  But for many customers, it may be their first time dealing with the system and the document they need may have a profound effect on their life.  Keep in mind that most residents are not fluent with legal terminology and, for many, English is not their first language.  Therefore, it is critical that everyone that interacts with the Clerk’s Office is treated with respect and compassion.

That’s why I’ve been happy to see the Clerk’s Office focus on creating a more welcoming place for people who are dealing with stressful life situations.  Whether someone is filing for a civil protection order or altering a parenting plan, providing information with kindness and understanding is important.  Each person needs to be treated as a person, not a form to process.

Think about a mother with small children who must come into the office to file a Domestic Violence Protection Order.  While trying to navigate the filing process, her small children are demanding attention in this unfamiliar place.  Having someone from the office compassionately keep the kids occupied so their mom can focus can make a huge difference.

Another initiative of the Clerk’s Office is reaching out to establish and build partnerships with community organizations to share information and create awareness about the services in the office – and at the same time creating an open dialogue to learn how we can be more responsive. That kind of outreach and engagement has been very well received!

Lastly, I am excited about the new leadership in the financial team within the Clerk’s Office.  Fresh eyes are already resulting in process improvements and the replacement of a decades old system!

All of us have the obligation to make difficult tasks easier and simpler for the people we serve.  I challenge you in this new year to take a fresh look at how we serve the people of Pierce County.  And remember, the trifecta of “innovation” results in: better service to our customers in a more transparent way with improved productivity!

Thanks for reading – and one last Go Dawgs!  Beat the Wolverines!